THE BLOG

Putting the Sanctuary Back Into the Quiet Carriage

28/03/2015 20:11 GMT | Updated 27/05/2015 10:59 BST

I know I'm going to sound like a grumpy old git here, but this needs to be said - so if you're going to jump to the comments and tell me to lighten up, don't. I know already. And I know this will be deemed 'first world problems' - as does anything which doesn't involve emergency aid, or is trivial, but I don't care. Ask around - this is a problem endemic across our beloved island, and it's one which needs tackling. Hell, it might not be an election-changer but that's only because the major parties haven't thought of it yet.

I speak, of course, of people talking in the quiet carriage on trains. Yes, I'm speaking out in public - although mainly because I'm too chicken to turn to my side and actually tell the three hipsters on my right to shut up, and enquiring whether they think the 'quiet please' signs have a hidden clause stating "unless you're wearing a beanie and trousers which finish mid-shin". (There's a certain safety in ranting online which thus doesn't involve standing up for yourself in reality).

But it matters. It matters because it's rude to ignore rules everyone else is sticking to; it matters because it assumes you're the centre of the universe and that everyone else - many of whom might have chosen to sit in the quiet carriage, (maybe they've had a bad day; maybe they've got a headache; maybe they don't want to listen to you crowing loudly on your phone about how incredibly important you are) - aren't there and can be ignored; it matters because it's just downright polite to consider other people.

There are twelve carriages on this train, and it's four thirty in the afternoon - this isn't rush hour and you can sit in literally hundreds of other seats and have your banal conversation at the top of your voice about how you're going to try and get 5,000 likes on your latest YouTube video by you and your terrible Mumford and Sons replicant band.

The problem is that this goes against all that is 'proper' - abiding by the rules; yet also embodies everything awkward and reserved about the British. I'm sat here, angrily typing away, when what I really want to do is stand up, tell them to shut up (with some choice, cutting expletives thrown in that naturally wouldn't comply with Huff Po guidelines), and sit down again, to the tumultuous applause of the rest of the carriage who will hail me like Caesar returning to Rome. Maybe they'll wallop up a statue in my honour at Marylebone.

Or maybe we need a deterrent - a robot with noise sensors which has some kind of low-level cattle prod as a hand. Maybe we need a sensor (with a mic) in the seat backs which can alert the driver to people talking (it could be switched off for rush hour and packed trains - I've thought this through), and they can shame offenders over the tannoy; "will the idiots in the quiet carriage banging on about their brogues please be quiet".

But no, instead, I'm doing what comes naturally. I'm glaring at them - but not too obviously mind, in case I catch their eye and then ask me what I'm glaring at and I mumble something about the quiet zone and point feebly at a sign, then have to stare red-faced out of the window for the rest of the journey. Twenty minutes is a long time to sit in your own morbid humiliation.

We need to take a stand. Come on Britain - time's up; let's do this. Let's ditch the glares... let's tell people to shut up... let's keep the quiet zone sacrosanct. But, you tell them, I'm too embarrassed - what if they shout back?